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Coach Says Taiwan Opener Is Key

Posted March. 03, 2006 09:10,   


The World Baseball Classic will raise its curtain in Japan’s Tokyo Dome on March 3 at 11:30 a.m. The first match will be Korea versus Taiwan, which will be aired on MBC TV.

Korea must beat Taiwan in order to advance to main round that will be held in the U.S. The Korean team’s manager, Kim In-shik, said yesterday after practice, “All three preliminary matches are important; but the importance of the Taiwan match is more than the rest. Since there will be a pitch count limit in effect, I will play two or three of our starting pitchers.”

Team Taiwan’s manager Lin Hua-Wei said he would use everything he has got against Korea.

Korea’s Park Chan-ho (San Diego Padres), Seo Jae-ung (Los Angeles Dodgers), Lee Seung-yeop (Yomiuri), and Choi Hee-seop (Los Angeles Dodgers) lead Team Korea’s overseas league contingent.

Taiwan will field all of its foreign league players except for the team’s ace, Wang Chien-Ming (New York Yankees). Taiwan is putting its hopes on its Japanese baseball league players. Left-handed pitcher Lin Ying-Chie, who plays for the Rakuten Eagles, is expected to start against Korea. He joined Rakuten last year after notching 12 wins and 10 losses in the Taiwanese league. His fastball averages 140km/h, and he throws a forkball.

Taiwan’s cleanup hitter is Lin Wei-Chu, who plays for Japan’s Hanshin Tigers. Taiwanese pitcher Keng Po-Hsuan, who plays for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Single-A team, has solid control, and Dodger minor league shortstop Hu Chin-Lung is a fast runner that Korea should watch out for.

By looking at each team’s recent practice matches against Japan Series winner Lotte, a comparison can be made of the two teams’ levels. Korea posted a 7-2 victory against Lotte on March 1 and recorded 13 base hits, while Taiwan lost to Lotte, 3-6.

Most foreign sports media outlets predicted a Korean win. But there is no room for cockiness. The 2003 Sapporo Asian Championship taught the Korean team a bitter lesson after it had failed to keep a two-run lead in the ninth inning and lost to Taiwan. “We will never let our guard down until the game-ending siren goes off,” said Korean team captain Lee Jong-beom.

Pitch Limit: New Wrinkle-

The trickiest part of the upcoming game will be the limit on the number of pitches a starter can make. Since each team’s starter can only make 65 pitches, much traffic is expected on the mound. Team Korea has a bigger pool of pitchers they can use in the game.

The artificial grass of the Tokyo Dome could be an obstacle for the Taiwanese, who may not be accustomed to it. Most Korean players are used to playing on artificial grass and in domed ball fields.